Increase in Polish women seeking abortion in Netherlands following strict ruling in Poland

On October 22 2020 it was ruled that women in Poland could only receive an abortion in cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is at risk. As a result, the Netherlands has experienced a surge in the number of Polish women traveling to the country for an abortion. 

Once the ruling comes into effect, abortions in cases where the fetus suffers unsurvivable birth defects will no longer be legal. It is estimated that this is the reasoning behind 97% of abortions in Poland.

As a consequence, Dutch abortion organisations such as the Abortion Network Amsterdam (ANA) have received a tripling of requests for help from Polish women in the past month.

Polish doctors already refusing

While the ruling has not yet come into law in Poland, many Polish doctors are already refusing to provide abortions on such grounds out of fear that they will face prosecution at a later date.

It is believed some Polish doctors use other methods to restrict access to abortion as well. “It is sometimes claimed that a woman has been pregnant longer than she really is, so that she is too late for an abortion” Mirjam van Heugten of the Abortion Network Amsterdam explains to the NOS.

This also makes access to abortion in the Netherlands difficult for Polish women as a Polish doctor’s permission is often required. “What makes it complicated is the permission of a Polish doctor. That is necessary for us to bridge the mandatory reflection period of five days.”

Abortions in the Netherlands

Dutch abortion services have seen a significant increase in the number of Polish women reaching out for help over the past two months.

The ANA, for example, noted that the organisations inbox began to fill immediately after the ruling. According to ANA’s figures, 187 Polish women were helped to receive an abortion in the Netherlands this year, 45 of which have occured since the October 22 ruling.

The Netherlands offers the broadest abortion legislation in the entire European Union and is therefore an important alternative for Polish women seeking abortion. In the Netherlands, an abortion may be performed — in theory— at up to 24 weeks (in practice this is 22).

Currently, Dutch organisations such as the ANA rely on donations in order to help cover the costs of abortions for Polish women.

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Feature Image: Zuza Galczynska/Unsplash.

Sarah O'Leary 🇮🇪
Sarah originally arrived in the Netherlands due to an inability to make her own decisions — she was simply told by her mother to choose the Netherlands for Erasmus. Life here has been challenging (have you heard the language) but brilliant for Sarah, and she loves to write about it. When Sarah is not acting as a safety threat to herself and others (cycling), you can find her sitting in a corner of Leiden with a coffee, trying to sound witty.

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